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Sleep Tracking Isn’t Stupid – by Jill McKinley

04 sleep by bedtime
Better Sleep from Going to Bed Earlier

I am Jill from the Northwoods. I have listened quietly to Allison and Bart for years. I work for a software company and used to be a systems administrator. I love learning how fully use gadgets and software to make life better and more enjoyable.

I heard somewhere that sleep tracking is stupid, but I learned a lot from two years of tracking! Before tracking, I had insomnia for over 35 years. I solved many of my problems about five years ago with a few technologies but that is a story for another time. This is about sleep tracking!

After the insomnia fixes, I started sleeping for 7-8 hours, but I was still tired in the morning. I really wanted to understand why. I tried a few sleep tracking apps and learned a few things. In March of 2018, I switched to the app Sleep Cycle.

Here’s why I switched:

  • It keeps track of sleep quality and sleep time and heart rate like most sleep apps will
  • It integrates with the automatic diary app Life Cycle which I use
  • It allows for personal tags to track the things I want to track.
  • It tracks sleep cities.
  • It listens for snoring. I live alone so I often wondered if I snore. As it turns out, I do.
  • Activity is measured in steps. I find this to be a poor measure of activity Which I wish would change. I row and bike quite a bit, but my steps can be low.
  • It correlates sleep quality with the mentioned data points With the premium subscription, it compares weather, air pressure, moon phase, days of the week. Keep in mind correlation does not prove cause and effect.
01 sleep old new bed
Sleep Improved After New Bed
and Poor in Iceland

Here is what I learned from the experience and how I solve the problems:

  • I notice I tossed and turned quite a bit. My bed was very old, and I would often wake up sore. I bought a new bed and got a platform that tilts the feet and head with a remote. With a slight head angle, it fixed a lot of my snoring and my back. The app scored it as a 6% improvement.
  • I was waking up many nights at 3am. So, I set an alarm for 2:45 one night and found that I had a very noisy water softener. I changed the scheduled time for the recycling process.
  • I still was getting up some nights and I used my watch to record the reason. I never remember getting up. I found that I was just drinking liquids too late!
  • I sleep poorly away from home. I travel for work so I couldn’t fix that entirely. I slept the worst in Iceland and India. LA and Detroit were terrible too. I figured big cities are very noisy so now I get a higher room. That fixed some of the problem, but I think fans and other noises can’t be stopped. I won’t even tell you about how I fixed my hotel thermostat to stop it from beeping. I sleep best at home, but Seattle, North Platte, and Forks aren’t bad. Who knew!
  • Sleeping with the windows open, taking a long nap or drinking a lot of caffeine didn’t really affect my sleep.
  • I slept poorly when it was clear weather, or the moon was full but great during lower pressure and with less moon. I decided this was light problems, so I got an eye mask.
    It turns out exercise always helps even if it is right before bed.
  • I thought I slept best In the morning hours. Turns out my best sleep is right after going to bed and gets worse the closer it gets to morning. I used other technology to help me get to bed earlier and sleep sooner.
  • If you use the Life Cycle app it will also measure daytime activities with your sleep. I tend to sleep great when I hike, birdwatch and go to church! I sleep less well. I sleep better when I shop but I think that is a correlation with weekends and not shopping.
02 sleep by city
Sleep by City

I know a lot of these items are involved in best sleep practices like not drinking before bed, fixing light issues and exercising. But it did teach me about my own sleep patterns and about a few things that were and were not issues.

I sleep great now and feel awesome in the morning. I no longer track sleep, but I am grateful for the experience. I am a troubleshooter at heart and so I am happy.

Sleep Cycle has other features. It can wake up when you are at your lightest sleep levels within your set threshold of time close to the alarm. I use this to help me exercise in the morning. It can also use Hue lights to gently wake you up with a sunrise-like experience. Hue also has this feature, but this is tied to your sleep pattern, so I think it is better. It has some sleep aids which I have not used mostly because I’m in love with another app’s sleep tools. Their support is responsive and friendly. I never had problems, but I did have questions about the tracking, and they were great! I hope you enjoyed the story of my sleep tracking experience.

Don’t forget to stay subscribed and please consider helping Allison and Bart by becoming a Patreon supporter. I did and I hope you will too.

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